Multilingual Folk Tale Database


Author: Asbjørnsen & Moe - 1841

Translated into English
  by George Dasent - 1859

Original title (Norwegian):
Dumme menn og troll til kjerringer

Country of origin: Norway

Story type: The merry wives wager . . . (ATU 1406)


English - aligned

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Silly Men And Cunning Wives

Asbjørnsen & Moe / George Dasent

Once on a time there were two Goodies, who quarrelled, as women often will; and when they had nothing else to quarrel about, they fell to fighting about their husbands, as to which was the silliest of them. The longer they strove the worse they got, and at last they had almost come to pulling caps about it, for, as every one knows, it is easier to begin than to end, and it is a bad look out when wit is wanting. At last, one of them said there was nothing she could not get her husband to believe, if she only said it, for he was as easy as a Troll. Then the other said there was nothing so silly that she could not get her husband to do, if she only said it must be done, for he was such a fool, he could not tell B from a bull's foot.

'Well! let us put it to the proof, which of us can fool them best, and then we'll see which is the silliest.' That was what they said once, and so it was settled.

Now when the first husband, Master Northgrange came home from the wood, his goody said--

'Heaven help us both! what is the matter! you are surely ill, if you are not at death's door?'

'Nothing ails me but want of meat and drink,' said the man.

'Now, Heaven be my witness!' screamed out the wife, 'it gets worse and worse. You look just like a corpse in face; you must go to bed! Dear! dear! this never can last long!' And so she went on till she got her husband to believe he was hard at death's door, and she put him to bed; and then she made him fold his hands on his breast, and shut his eyes; and so she stretched his limbs, and laid him out, and put him into a coffin; but that he might not be smothered while he lay there, she had some holes made in the sides, so that he could breathe and peep out.

The other goody, she took a pair of carding combs, and began to card wool; but she had no wool on them. In came the man, and saw this tomfoolery.

'There's no use,' he said, 'in a wheel without wool; but carding combs, without wool, is work for a fool.'

'Without wool!' said the goody; 'I have wool, only you can't see it; it's of the fine sort.' So, when she had carded it all, she took her wheel, and fell a-spinning.

'Nay! nay! this is all labour lost!" said the man. 'There you sit, wearing out your wheel, as it spins and hums, and all the while you've nothing on it.'

'Nothing on it!' said the goody; 'the thread is so fine, it takes better eyes than yours to see it, that's all.'

So, when her spinning was over, she set up her loom, and put the woof in, and threw the shuttle, and wove cloth. Then she took it out of the loom and pressed it and cut it out, and sewed a new suit of clothes for her husband out of it, and when it was ready, she hung the suit up in the linen closet. As for the man, he could see neither cloth nor clothes; but as he had once for all got it into his head that it was too fine for him to see, he went on saying, 'Aye, aye, I understand it all, it is so fine because it is so fine.'

Well! in a day or two his goody said to him,

'To-day you must go to a funeral. Farmer Northgrange is dead, and they bury him to-day, and so you had better put on your new clothes.'

'Yes, very true, he must go to the funeral;' and she helped him on with his new suit, for it was so fine, he might tear it asunder if he put it on alone.

So when he came up to the farm, where the funeral was to be, they had all drank hard and long, and you may fancy their grief was not greater when they saw him come in in his new suit. But when the train set off for the churchyard, and the dead man peeped through the breathing holes, he burst out into a loud fit of laughter.

'Nay! nay!' he said, 'I can't help laughing, though it is my funeral, for if there isn't Olof Southgrange walking to my funeral stark naked!'

When the bearers heard that, they were not slow in taking the lid off the coffin, and the other husband, he in the new suit, asked how it was that he, over whom they had just drank his funeral ale, lay there in his coffin and chatted and laughed, when it would be more seemly if he wept.

'Ah!' said the other; 'you know tears never yet dug up any one out of his grave--that's why I laughed myself to life again.'

But the end of all their talk was that it came out that their goodies had played them those tricks. So the husbands went home, and did the wisest thing either of them had done for a long time; and if any one wishes to know what it was, he had better go and ask the birch cudgel.